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Copper Column Above Or Below Plates???

I am configuring a new 4" hybrid column for one run whisky and would like to add some copper into the column itself. I will be using either one or two plates. I plan to use a copper dephlegmator but I also want to include 12-20" of 4" copper pipe. Would it be better to mount the pipe below or above the plate(s)? If below, the dephlegmator would be immediately above the plates. If above, the dephlegmator could either be immediately above or 12-20" above the plate(s). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


  • Above the plates it goes plates then packed column then deph

  • The plates are used to enrich the vapour fed to the packing. The packing will not work effectively without forced reflux, so what DoD said is correct.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • Sorry if I was not specific enough, I am not packing the copper column. Same answer?

  • What do you want it for then? There will be plenty of copper in your plates and copper condensor to handle any sulphides.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • When I said hybrid, I was referring to more of a pot still configuration with a plate or two.

  • So a pot with a couple of micro thumpers.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Purely for build convenience then (as this is a plate enhanced pot still) fit the copper section directly below the dephlegmator.

  • And then later on when you wake up to the benefits you can pack it.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • edited March 2014

    An interesting approach here might be to run the bubble plates without the bubble caps, acting as kind of a very rough sieve plate.

    If your column is high enough, the temperature differential up the column may cause enough reflux to send liquid back down. You could offset the plates a bit so that any liquid dripping down isn't going straight through the plates below.

    You'd be talking about a significant amount of copper contact in the column without needing to deal with making a copper dephlegmator, or dealing with copper packing (easier to clean and re-use). If you wanted to play with controlled reflux in this scenario, since you wouldn't need 100%, just pick up a reducer and a smaller SD stainless one, and don't worry about making one in copper (shameless plug for the guys).

    Pot still with 2-3 plates isn't a hybrid though, that's why I'm asking. It's really just a plated still with 2-3 plates. There are lots of examples of commercial stills with only 1 or 2 plates.

    Should be easy enough to run through trials without a really big investment here. The copper bubble plates without the caps are dirt cheap - you could add them between every pipe section you've got, just for the heck of it really. Probably have more copper contact in this configuration than making a pipe section.

    Hell, even give it a fancy name like a "vapour catalyzer" and you are in business.

    Posting this because I had a dream the other night about a new SD product to enhance copper contact - It was a 6" section of tri-clamp pipe that had a spiral of copper flashing material held inside of it such that the spiral was constant from the middle of the pipe to the edge. If you held it up to the light, you could see straight through it. The flashing guides at the top and bottom would be relatively simple thing that looked like a comb pointing inwards. Or, if you use thicker flashing, you'd really just need to roll it up and ensure an equal spacing, drop it in, and run!

    The calculated surface area would be massive, since you'd have the combined front and back surface area of a roll of copper flashing. In addition, it would be simple to clean. Just rinse down and set it in some hot backset over night, it'd come out sparkly clean. You could probably use it forever, and it would save a fortune compared to copper packing and scrubbies. You'd also save a fortune on copper pipe.

    Only downside is that getting this to work in a 2" still would be much tougher than in 4, 5, 6 or 8.

  • edited March 2014

    @grim said: Pot still with 2-3 plates isn't a hybrid though, that's why I'm asking. It's really just a plated still with 2-3 plates. There are lots of examples of commercial stills with only 1 or 2 plates.

    I don't agree with this. IMO a short plated column can be either a pot still or a reflux column. The difference being how you run it.

    If you stabilise and run at a product rate where you have a constant product ABV throughout the run - then you are in reflux column mode.

    However, if you run with just enough reflux to maintain the plates, and your product ABV changes during the run - then you are in pot still mode.

    In pot still mode you have the ability to modify the ABV performance of the still, dependent on how much induced reflux you introduce. This is similar in operation to the water cooled bowls and balls that are seen on some traditional pot stills. They just moderate the operational parameters of the pot still.

  • Thanks for all the responses guys. What I want to do is run the column in reflux mode with a constant ABV of around 80%. Again, I chose the wrong word in calling it a pot still instead of explaining my objective. How many bubble plates would I need to achieve this?

  • A CONSTANT ABV of 80% is a little tough to do but not impossible.
    I'd try 2 plates but your reflux rate will be the thing to watch. Too little reflux and the ABV will steadily drop over the course of the run and too much reflux will make for a painfully slow product take-off rate while keeping the ABV high throughout the run.

    Adding a third plate might make it easier to control the desired 80% output and make the dephlegmator a bit less finicky to keep dialed in. You will need to make minor changes to the cooling water flow for the dephlem throughout the run to get a balance between take-off rate and keeping the product at your desired 80%.

    With 4 plates or less, I usually don't try to maintain a certain ABV%. I settle on a production speed that I'm happy with and just let the ABV fall over the course of the run (like a pot still) and blend in the cuts that I'm happy with. Any number of plates will give you a broader hearts cut than a "pure pot still" because the plates naturally compress the heads and suppress the tails.

  • Some form of temp control for the dephlegmater would help

  • Why 80% and for what product? Most folks are using slightly higher numbers.

    Rum is typically taken at 93% to 94%, Whisky usually no higher than 94% but often a bit lower.

    80% is more typical of a pot still mode where you might collect from 80% down to 50%.

  • Ive run 2-3 plates above and below a 300mm section, plates on top ran better, but not enough to worry about. The falling distillate with the section above the plates had a long fall though and some splashing, and more than likely some going straight down the downcomer. I have ran mine with the section, deflag full of water, loaded the plates and turned the coolent off the the deflag and it held the bath still.I agree with Myles about high abv, ive found the product much nicer at high abv add blend back heads and tails for you desired taste. 90-93% is the sweet spot for me. If you want lower abv I agree with od, and also keeping your deflag coolent at the spot for takeoff at max abv then adjust your heat for faster takeoff which will lower your abv, will be able to keep take off pretty constant that way.

  • @Myles said: Why 80% and for what product? Most folks are using slightly higher numbers.

    Bourbon, of course!

  • So 1 or 2 plates plus a bit of packing with forced reflux from a dephlegmator, as a hybrid for bourbon. That is workable but you will be running as an enhanced pot still.

    You may find that you will be able to run the dephlegmator initially with low boiler power. This will concentrate the heads and fill the plates.

    After that you may be able to switch off the dephlegmator coolant and run the hearts phase as a pot still with gradually reducing product ABV. The plates (once initially charged) will probably be fine with no induced reflux for the duration of the run.

    My reference to a higher ABV applies to spirits produced on a column in reflux stil mode - at a constant product ABV.

  • I disagree, respectfully, and suggest 4 plates with no packing. The flavor will be intense enough to please and, of course, the cuts that you make and blend will determine your final product profile.

    So many way to skin this cat. (Me? I'd personally go with 6 plates and blend the fractions but that's just me).

    I'd take very small heads fractions, about 200ml at the most, until into the hearts. After the hearts I may, but probably won't, use any of the tails. A dab of late heads with the hearts seems to be the ticket for my bourbon. Try to give it 6 months on oak if you can - I usually can't wait that long.

  • Thanks all for your suggestions.

  • Chubby - I would like to agree with Lloyd - even though it wasn't the question you asked.

    In the ideal world if I was going to build a hybrid now with both packing and plates, I would be using the packing as an add-on to the plates, and would only use it for neutral.

    For flavoured spirits I would just use the plates on their own.

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